Raha News Agency has learned that the former head for the Afghan film organization, Sahraa Karimi embezzled millions of Afghanis while she was in charge for the state-run organization.
Former employees of the Afghan Film organization and a number of Afghan filmmakers who had signed filmmaking contracts with Saharaa Karimi told Raha Press that she did not pay their due payments while she had already received the needed budget from the ministry of information and culture and kept the money in her personal banking account, instead of depositing it to the entity’s one.
Moreover, they have all complained against Mrs. Sahraa Karimi’s behavioral instability and her sometimes uncivilized character while she was in charge of an entity whose main duty was to promote the richness of Afghan culture through filmmaking.
Sharaa Karimi was appointed as the head of Afghan Film organization in May 2019 By Afghanistan former Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission.
However, Hezbullah Sultani a former colleague for Sharaa in the organization and also himself being a former candidate to lead the Afghan Film Organization says Sahraa Karimi was not selected by her skill competency but because she had a 10 extra point for her gender, an Afghan former government initiative to encourage women to enter to the body of government.
Almost all Afghan artists and Sahraa Karimi’s former colleagues confirmed to Raha News Agency that Sahraa may be suffering from a mental disease as she would not show a stable behavior.
Sayed Jalal Rohani an Afghan filmmaker shared with Raha Press a number of voice and text messages sent to him by Sahraa. Almost every message which is in Farsi contained a rude words with a superior intonation.
Others also have similar stories as Sayed Jalal Rohani’s.
“Regardless of who was in the meetings, Sahra Karimi would shout and scream at artists who were performing their duties under her tenure; we all got used to seeing a glass get broken by her while shouting in every sessions and meetings in the Afghan film.” Hezbullah Says.
Arif Takvin another Afghan filmmaker confirms his fellow artists’ comments and said “at first, everyone was happy that Sahraa Karimi got the leading role in the shaking Afghan film organization, even Angelina Jolie of Hollywood sent her a letter raising her voice of support in favor of Mrs. Sahraa Karimi; but, later on everyone was just shunning Sahraa as she was quite rude in her daily routine engagement with employees and all filmmakers.
He said that “you may ask anyone who has closely worked with Sahraa karimi about her behavior instability and you would hear that she does severely suffer from lack of behavioral stability.”
Filmmakers and former Afghan film employees all narrate a similar story of Mrs. Karimi’s histrionic behaviors such as her reactions when fleeing Kabul, or pouring uncontrolled tears when Cinema Park Building got demolished by former Kabul municipality officials, or even her film festivals in which filmmakers themselves didn’t own a place to take part in.
Hezbullah Sultani along with a few other filmmakers told Raha Press about the day the former Kabul municipality officials were about to demolish the old Cinema Park Building.
“We all had gathered at the Afghan Film and told Mrs. Karimi that we had to raise our voice as filmmakers and stop the officials from demolishing the building, but Mrs. Karimi responded in cold blooded that there was nothing left that we could do to change the decision made by authorities and that we had to let it go. So, then we all left for our homes.” Said Hezbullah Sultani.
Masood Eslami says “it was around sunset that I received a phone call from a friend, only to know that Mrs. Sahraa Karimi had already gone to the Cinema Park alone and was trying to stop the authorities from demolishing the building, with a number of media cameras there filming her reactions and tears, of course.”
“I was about to tell her that a few hours earlier you yourself were the one who told us that we could do nothing and should let it go,” Masood added.
Masood Eslami also told Raha Press about a number of Film Festivals that Sahraa Karimi held during her tenure as the chief for Afghan Film Organization, that in none of which the filmmakers were not invited but politicians and businessmen were possessing all the seats in venues.
According to Masood, even there were not any new Films to screen in the festivals, but Sahraa Karimi would keep insisting to hold such events, screening only old films repetitively.
He said “Sahraa Karimi came to me and asked to help her for holding a film festival in Afghan Film, but I told her that Afghanistan doesn’t need colorful festivals, but needs filMrs. However, she insisted and asked for our supports; so did we. The unfamiliar people of Afghanistan with cinema and reluctant politicians to even care about helped Sahraa Karimi to hold a number of festivals without screening any new films, in which she would award films that were not chosen by jurors.”
Several million Afs embezzled from the Afghan Film Organization and foreign organizations funds:
The country’s filmmakers, some of whom have fled Kabul due to security threats, say that in addition to all the above mentioned misbehaviors, the issue being the most upsetting for everyone was Mrs. Karimi’s embezzlement.
Hezbullah Sultani, a member of the Afghan Film Organization’s Money Board, says beside the funds by foreign organizations such as the British Council being donated to the Afghan Film, the Afghan government had also allocated a total of about 39 million Afghanis (Approximately $475,000.00) to the directorate for making several films and documentaries during Mrs. Sahra Karimi’s tenure.
“The festivals being held also had separate budgets or donations,” he says. The British Council, for example, donated equipment and furniture cost about $ 40,000 to the Afghan Film. Among the equipment donated was a MacBook Pro computer cost $ 5,000 taken by Mrs. Karimi, who is now in Europe; the equipment belongs to the Afghan Film Directorate not to a person like Mrs. Karimi.
Audio file sent by Mrs. Sahra Karimi to Hezbollah Soltani, a member of the money board of the Afghan Film directorate
About the money being allocated to the Afghan film by the ministry of information and culture, Mr. Sultani said: “one day, Mrs. Karimi called me and told me to go to the ministry to get the money, we drove to the ministry in a Land Cruiser belonged to the Afghan Film. After passing the administrative process, we received 12 million Afghanis in cash. I put the cash in my handkerchief because we had nothing with us to put the money in; we walked to one of the branches of Maiwand Bank in the Shahr-e Naw area of Kabul.”
“At the time there was no bank account for Afghan Film directorate in the bank, so my colleagues and I suggested to open one there, but it was rejected by Mrs. Sahra Karimi, instead, the money went to her private bank account.” Mr. Sultani added
Despite our opposing, the money sat on her personal bank account. During putting money in her bank account, there was the head of finance department of the ministry of information and culture there whom we paid 2 hundred Afghanis on Mrs. Karimi`s order. Asking her the reason, she replied it was for some delayed debt.
“I transferred the remaining amount, eleven million and eight hundred thousand Afs, to Sahra’s personal account, which was to be used to make several films and documentaries” Sultani added.
According to him, one of those films was a project on making a film named “Women’s Bath Alley”. Despite much opposition from filmmakers, Mrs. Sahra Karimi said she herself would direct it.
The film budget was 7 million Afghanis, but it was never made, however, its fake documents about the production costs were all delivered to the ministry of information and culture. It was a shadow film with real money.
“All bills of personnel`s food, rent, salaries and transportation were falsely prepared and delivered to the ministry, but there were no personnel or any other one.” Mr. Sultani added.
Documents of a ghost post-production company based in Sweden were faked and handed over to the Ministry of Information and Culture to pretend the post production procedures of the said film is underway in that Swedish company.
In addition, several other false contracts in the name of other Afghan film makers were prepared, each film maker was going to be given 4 hundred Afghanis.
One of the films was going to be made by Mr. Masoud Islami, a documentary about COVID-19 epidemic in Afghanistan.
Mr. Islami said he was given a small portion of the agreed money while the film had been made after months of hard working.
“I paid for all expenses like personnel, equipment and film making tools from my own pocket. Afghan film directorate as the producer of the documentary, was responsible for all expenditures but it failed. Mrs. Karimi didn’t pay me the spent money” Mr. Islami added
Mrs. Sahrah Karimi had already received the allocated money from the ministry and put it in her personal bank account, said Mr. Islami, adding that all filmmakers had to present their expenditure bills beforehand, “it is ridiculous, how the hell you can pass an expenditure bill to your superior, when you had not yet spent it. How can I show the invoice of my next week’s dinner, when it is yet to arrive.”
There was the same story for all other film makers: they had to present their expenditure bills beforehand, so that Mrs. Karimi would be able to receive the money from the ministry, said Masood.
Mr. Sultani said “with a total budget of 1 million Afghanis I was order by Afghan film organization to make a documentary on Afghanistan’s 100 years of history. I made the documentary and presented it one and a half year ago, but was never paid fully, whereas, Mrs. Karimi had already received the budget but kept it in her personal bank account.”
Sultani says that he was not also paid for yet another project named “the Birds’ Selling Alley”.
Mrs. Karimi kept postponing the payment until the government collapsed, he said, adding the budget was 400 thousands Afghanis.
Mr. Sayed Jalal Rouhani was bombarded by damns when he complained about not receiving his money for his works.
Nasser Hashemi, Zabihullah Seif Askari, Homayoun Payeez, Aref Takvin and a number of other filmmakers had the stories similar to Massoud Eslami, Jalal Rouhani and Hezbollah Sultani’s; They were all lost their money in orders by Mrs. Sahrah Karimi. They were not paid and all the money remained in Mrs. Sahra Karimi’s personal account.
“Not receiving money from the ministry, low quality of the made films along with some other excuses” had been brought up by Mrs. Sahra Karimi each time the filmmakers complained about the delay of their payments.
However, the filmmakers brought up the notion to Mrs. Karimi that if the said films lack quality, then why she is receiving the films and why she is not returning back the budget to the ministry. “Sahraa Karimi knew from the very beginning and know us all well that we are not Hollywood filmmakers nor do we have the budget Hollywood movie companies do; hence, she knew from the very beginning that how the film would be made. These are just some bunch of light headed excuses to not pay us.”
But Sayed Jalal Rouhani and Hezbollah Sultani, who were close to Mrs. Sahra Karimi, have another saying on this;
They told Raha Press that Mrs. Sahraa Karimi had given the money of the films to her boyfriend named Ahmad Shah, the owner of a construction company.
As his business was glooming, Ahmad Shah failed to pay the money back to Sahraa so that she could pay the filmmakers and also make her own film. However, Sahraa documented all the expenditures and handed over to the ministry of information and culture to secure the money she received.
Despite several calls, Raha News Agency reporter failed to reach Mrs. Sahra Karimi who is now out of Afghanistan. Each time she received a call from Raha News Agency reporter, she blocked the number.